Atelectasis is an ailment in which the alveoli could not be occupied with air. The alveoli aid with the exchange of oxygen in the air for carbon dioxide. For this to be achieved, the alveoli should be filled with air.
Based on the underlying cause, atelectasis might involve either a small or large section of the lung.
What are the indications?
The signs of atelectasis range from non-existent to serious which is based on the area in the lung affected and how rapidly it develops. In case only a few alveoli are affected or develops in a slow manner, there are no evident signs.
If the condition develops rapidly or several alveoli are involved, it is difficult to provide enough oxygen to the blood. A drop in the level of blood oxygen can result to:
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Piercing chest pain while coughing or deep breathing
- Bluish skin, fingernails, lips or toenails
- Elevated heart rate
What are the types?
This type of atelectasis occurs if an obstruction forms in one of the airways. The alveoli collapse since they do not receive any air.
The airway can end up blocked due to the following:
- Growth of a tumor inside an airway
- Inhalation of a foreign object in the airway such as a small piece of food
- Mucus plug
- Tumor in the lung tissue close to the airway
This form is not brought about by any form of blockage in the airways. Some of the usual causes include:
- Pleural effusion
- Chest tumor
- Lung scarring
- Surfactant deficiency
Management of atelectasis
The treatment for atelectasis is based on the underlying cause and seriousness of the symptoms.
If the individual has difficulty breathing or feels that he/she is not getting enough air, seek prompt medical care. A breathing device might be necessary until the doctor can decide on the root cause of the condition.